‘Launch with a Bang’: Virginia Sports Betting Could Debut by Super Bowl

Posted on January 6, 2021 - Last Updated on March 3, 2021

The Virginia sports betting launch could coincide with the largest sporting event of the year: the annual NFL Super Bowl.

Virginia lawmakers legalized sports betting in July, and the Virginia Lottery Board adopted official regulations in September. Now, as sportsbook operators anxiously await decisions on their applications, Virginia sports bettors have had one persistent question.

When can I bet on sports in Virginia?

Now, though, we appear to have a likely launch date.

Virginia sports betting launch just weeks away

Virginia Lottery Executive Director Kevin Hall told WVEC 13 News Now on Tuesday that the Virginia sports betting launch could happen in time for betting on Super Bowl LV.

The game takes place Sunday, Feb. 7, in Tampa, Florida. The NFL’s annual championship game has become a worldwide cultural phenomenon. It’s also the biggest betting event of the year.

In fact, it’s more popular than the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament. Bettors wager more on the Super Bowl than horse racing’s Kentucky Derby, MLB’s World Series, and even the biggest pay-per-view mega-fights for boxing and MMA.

So, if you want to make a sports-betting splash, why wouldn’t you go big? Hall just wants to make sure the commonwealth has a responsible rollout. As he told WVEC:

“If a licensee is ready to go, some of them could be up and running by the Super Bowl. That’s a good opportunity. It’s the biggest thing on the sports calendar all year, so we might be able to launch with a bang. …

“The priority is here in Virginia, sports betting is offered in a safe and responsible way. Strong consumer protections, guardrails that prevent underage gambling, procedures, and audits to make sure there’s no criminal activity like money laundering or tax evasion. It’s being done successfully in other states, so we can learn from their experiences.”

Who gets Virginia sports betting licenses?

Before the Virginia sports betting launch, though, the Virginia Lottery needs to unveil its list of licensees. The regulatory body, which will oversee sports betting and casino gambling in Virginia, hasn’t revealed any applicants.

However, we know that some of the industry’s biggest sportsbook operators are vying for a piece of the market, including:

A Virginia Lottery official recently told PlayVirginia that the lotto’s official website, VALottery.com, will eventually reveal and list the licensees.

According to Hall, 25 companies have applied for licenses. As part of the regulatory framework for Virginia sports betting, the VA Lottery could issue up to 12 licenses with a minimum of four.

Additionally, as Hall told WVEC, operators for the recently approved Norfolk casino and Portsmouth casino have submitted applications to operate online sports betting platforms. Those resorts, as well as the planned Bristol casino and Danville casino, could also have brick-and-mortar sportsbooks when they open in 2022 and 2023.

Once they’re operational, Virginia sportsbooks could do a brisk business. After all, Virginia lawmakers think sports betting could generate $50 million in annual tax revenue when the market matures by 2025-2026.

However, neighboring states such as Tennessee and West Virginia got a head start by already launching their markets. And Virginia will have some limitations, notably a wagering ban on in-state schools such as the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Photo by AP / Tyler Kaufman
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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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